I am happy to write a recommendation for the extraordinary John Evans. A veteran and largely a self-taught writer, John combines a passionate need to express himself and tell his story with a profound respect for literature, a fierce thirst for learning, and many natural literary gifts.  He is the kind of student who makes me proud and excited to teach in a low-residency program in creative writing. John started his professional life overhauling jet engine components.  He then enrolled at the University of Southern New Hampshire, studying for a BA in English with a concentration in Non-Fiction.  I got to know John when he contacted me through my poetry teaching website last fall and commenced what would become an intensive poetry-writing tutorial over several months.

During the time I worked with John, I found him to be an eager student, ready to revise tirelessly and eager to absorb anything I had to teach him. He has read widely and is enthusiastic to read more. His writing style is raw and unabashed, with words flowing urgently over the page.  When we started working together, his poetry manuscript, now titled Vehemence, was well over a hundred pages, representing 20 years worth of work.  John demonstrated an unflagging energy for shaping and strengthening the manuscript. During one week while we were working on the villanelle form and I had gone out of town, he informed me that he had written no less than six villanelles. I was particularly impressed that he recognized the value of discarding large swathes of writing, a process that tends to threaten the egos of less mature and serious poets.

The decades of having gone his own way as a self-taught writer have endowed John’s writing voice with a power and authenticity that is refreshing and compelling.  A central theme in the manuscript we worked on together, Vehemence, is the sexual abuse he endured as a child and in the military. John has done the necessary emotional work to become ready to write openly about this important topic, and this is one the themes he intends to explore during his MFA program in creative writing.

Clearly, John does not have a traditional educational background.  But I feel that he has many other strengths that will be far more important to his career in creative writing: the perspective and maturity to take in others’ suggestions and grow from their feedback; the discipline, diligence, and initiative to work hard on his own; sincere passion to make his voice heard; genuine reverence for and curiosity about the power of literary tradition, which will help his writing to be part of something bigger than itself; and a natural poetic ear along with a sense for image and story. 

Based on my experience working with John and my knowledge of low-residency programs, I believe that John has what it takes to succeed in the St. Francis MFA program and that, if he is accepted, he will make the program proud.


Annie Finch
Poetry Faculty
St. Francis College Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing

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